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"Pass, friend". (Border).

Mexico's President Vicente Fox has proposed opening the border between his country and the U.S. sometime between 2020 and 2025. Many experts believe Canada should be thinking about a similar time-frame. Before that can happen there will have to be:

* A customs union that would create common policies for Canada and the U.S. in trading with the rest of the world;

* A co-ordination of regulations covering everything from the size of bathroom fixtures to the approval of pharmaceuticals;

* An agreement giving Canadians and Americans the right to live and work in either country.

An open border with the U.S. would probably mean Canada having to adopt American standards for most things. There would be no more litres and kilometres, as Canada would have to use U.S. weights and measures. Environmental and food safety regulations would be those of the U.S. Nobody has, as yet, suggested the Canadian Football League would have to use the four-down rule.

Dismantling the border would mean oil workers in Alberta, for example, could simply get in their trucks and drive down to Texas for jobs. Texans could work in Alberta. Supporters of this say that instead of a brain drain in which Canada loses some of its best to the U.S. there would be more of a "brain circulation" that would benefit both countries.

Business leaders also want border formalities dispensed with. Thomas d'Aquino is President of The Canadian Council for Chief Executives and he's written a paper calling for an open border. The plan was revealed at a closed-door meeting with former Finance Minister Paul Martin in January 2003. According to Gloria Galloway, writing in The Globe and Mail, Mr. d'Aquino's proposal would establish a single North American perimeter. Within that area, Canada and the United States would "manage matters such as immigration and defence jointly. Border crossings ... would be little more than internal checkpoints."

Paul Martin, very likely Canada's next prime minister, said after the meeting: "What we want is a border that works ... that essentially is open to the flow of commerce between our two nations."

As security measures with the U.S. are harmonized, the need for a physical border diminishes. At some point the stop signs and customs booths are no longer necessary. This is now the case across most of Europe, where border formalities have been reduced to a sign at the side of the road that reads, "You Are Now Entering Austria/ France etc." The trick is to create a border that trucks and trains carrying goods can pass through without slowing down, but that doesn't give easy access to undesirable people. Essentially, that means Canada must adopt U.S. immigration, refugee, and visa requirements. (Nobody seriously suggests the U.S. might want to adopt Canada's system).

Project Identity is a trial program started up by Citizenship and Immigration Canada in October 2002. Its aim is to place in custody anybody who arrives at Toronto's Pearson International Airport with question marks attached to their identity. This mostly applies to refugee claimants, many of whom arrive without proper documents. Until Project Identity started up, Canada's standard procedure was to release such people unless they were thought to be a criminal or security threat.

Janet Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees says Project Identity is really aimed at convincing the Americans that Canada's border is secure.

In December 2002, Canada and the United States signed an accord on the treatment of refugees. The agreement means that Canada will no longer accept refugee claimants trying to enter the country from the U.S. It follows complaints from American politicians that Canada is too soft on people making claims for political asylum. Defenders of the program say it will stop people from "shopping around" for the easiest place to make a refugee claim.

Every year, there ar two hundred million border crossing between Canada and the United States.

On 13 September 2001, the line-up of trucks waiting to cross the Ambassador Bridge from Windsor, Ontario to Detroit was 36 kilometres long.

Canadian Council of Chief Executives

C.D. Howe Institute

Smart Border Declaration-- /can-us-border-en.asp

RELATED ARTICLE: Coming through.

The Free Trade Agreement created some massive traffic snarls at border crossings. Customs officers on both sides had books full of new regulations to enforce. So, to speed things up, Canadian and American officials tried sharing the same offices. That ran into some snags. At the border crossing between Coutts, Alberta and Sweet-grass, Montana negotiations about sharing broke down. Nobody could agree on whether U.S. guards should leave their guns behind when going to the bathroom on the Canadian side of the border.

RELATED ARTICLE: North American Commission.

Robert A. Pastor thinks NAFTA should be "widened" and "deepened." In his 2001 book, Toward a North American Community, he suggests putting together a panel of distinguished people appointed by the three NAFTA members. This "North American Commission" (its members should not be from government, says Mr. Pastor) would set a comprehensive agenda for economic integration.

There would be a far-ranging plan for transportation and infrastructure (funded initially by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank) and better management of cross-border flows of people, arms, and drugs. It would also create a development fund targeted at North America's poorest regions, just as the European Union has done for its poorer members. Despite the political difficulty of these initiatives, Robert Pastor concludes, they are essential to the continent's future; as he correctly points out, "a problem in one part of North America can no longer be contained from affecting other parts."
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Title Annotation:opening the border between Canada and the US
Publication:Canada and the World Backgrounder
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jan 1, 2003
Previous Article:Loonies for greenbacks. (Currency).
Next Article:Do we know where we're going? (Defence).

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